The disgraced Minneapolis cop who murdered George Floyd on camera owns a vacation spot in the town of Windermere, Florida, population approximately 3,000. But even as he flails in last-ditch attempts to soften his sentence, this community has become consumed with drama over BLM protests, the First Amendment, and residents desperate for quiet.
On Tuesday, the Orange County commission debated an ordinance proposed by Orange County Sheriff John Mina and Mayor Jerry Demings that would prohibit an “assembly” of one or more people from protesting within a 150-foot radius of anyone’s home, according to a draft of the ordinance obtained by The Daily Beast. The offense would be classified as a misdemeanor.
County Commissioners at the meeting said they felt blindsided by the proposal, which was the final agenda item and was discussed before an empty chamber. “It really, really bothered me that there was no engagement of the public when this is going to directly affect them,” County Commissioner Mayra Uribe told The Daily Beast.
A spokesperson for Mayor Demings declined to comment for this story and directed The Daily Beast to the mayor’s remarks on Tuesday.
In a statement to The Daily Beast, Sheriff Mina said the right to protest “must be balanced with an individual’s right to be safe in their homes.” He said the proposed ordinance is similar to others enacted around the country and would not stop people from exercising their constitutional rights to protest, “but makes sure that when they do so at a specific home, they do not unreasonably interfere with an individual’s peace.”
After Uribe and other commissioners, including Nicole Wilson, who represents Windermere, expressed concerns about the ordinance and the lack of public input, the board decided to put off a vote on the ordinance until June 22. Wilson did not respond to a request for comment.
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During the meeting, Demings and Mina painted a picture of local chaos after Floyd’s killing set off nationwide unrest.
Mina said that between May 29 and June 6, 2020, swarms of people “descended” on the area surrounding the home in Windermere. Although he conceded that the protests were generally peaceful, he also said two arrests were made during that period, and that there was “vandalism” and threats on social media to burn Chauvin’s home down. He went on to describe residents too afraid to walk their dog or let their kids ride their bicycles, and claimed some fled to hotels.
Without naming names, the mayor said residents told him to “do something” about the presence of people in the area—which, one year, an historic movement, and a murder conviction later, he’s doing.
“They did not feel safe in their homes,” Demings said at the meeting, adding that if members of the commission who did not agree with the ordinance had lived in the area at that time, “you would feel the same way that they did.”
But one neighbor who has lived in the area of Chauvin’s home for the past seven years told The Daily Beast that those concerns seemed a little overblown—and certainly not enough to justify what he believes would be an infringement on constitutional rights if the ordinance were to pass.
The neighbor, who would only speak under the condition of anonymity, said that during the period of protests in Windermere last summer, he remembered getting Next Door notifications and seeing a stream of protesters and police in and around his neighborhood.
But he added that aside from some heavier than usual traffic, he wasn’t more inconvenienced than any other citizen who encounters a protest.
“It did not bother me that much,” the resident said, adding that he was not an immediate neighbor of Chauvin but lived across a busy intersection in a different subdivision.
While he said he understood that law enforcement may need to take certain measures to keep communities safe, he said the measure represented a “blanket” ban on protesting in front of people’s homes. “That would violate people’s freedom of speech in my opinion,” the neighbor said.
The draft ordinance states that it is meant to facilitate free speech and peaceful assembly on “certain public property” while also protecting the “well-being, tranquility and privacy of the home.” It says that protests focused on a resident or residents of a home may “infringe upon the well-being, tranquility, and privacy of the resident or residents of the home” and that privacy and that residents should “feel free and safe in their homes” from protests that target them.
For his part, the neighbor said that if he were the target of a protest like the one in front of Chauvin’s home, he would obviously be “bothered.”
“But then again, that is the whole point of the protest,” he said. “If I deserved it, I deserved it.”